When he opened his eyes, Ga'briyel tried to sit up but found that he was tied down on his back. He carefully tested his bonds, but the ropes were tight enough to dig into his flesh. His head was free, however, and he looked around him. He was underground; that much he could clearly see. He was tied to a stone table in the middle of a small room, and it was dark. There were no sounds and no sensations. That seemed strange since he would have assumed he was still surrounded by Sayatan's creatures.
Gritting his teeth, he sawed his left wrist against the ropes, hoping to loosen them enough to slip his hand out. He worked on his left hand in order to keep his right intact for fighting, for he had no illusions that he would be able to escape wherever he was without fighting something. He did not know how long he worked on the ropes, but eventually, he felt it give a tiny bit. He still felt nothing other than the pain from the bindings, and it was as if he were the only living creature in the world, but he ignored that thought and continued to loosen the rope.
Whoever or whatever had tied it must not have had much practice in tying knots, for he ultimately managed to free his hand. His skin was rubbed raw around his wrist, but he paid no attention to the pain as he reached across his body to free his right hand. From there, it was an easy process to remove the rest of the ropes binding him to the table. He stood slowly and let his eyes blaze as he looked around the room. Other than the table, there was nothing. He stood at one wall and measured the room. It was just over two paces wide, two paces long, and about three paces high. At least he did not have to slouch to stand. In one wall was a door that had a small window, but the door was made out of the same rock as the walls, floor, and table. Ga'briyel walked to it and studied it closely. He could see no latch and no hinges; there seemed to be no way to open it. He peered through the window, and his eyes glowed when he saw his sword hanging up on a peg across the tunnel outside his cell. Then he saw movement in the tunnel, and he stood to the side of the door so that he could not be seen from the window.
"Time to wake up, my little Sainika," a high-pitched voice said outside the door. "Kolakas wishes to speak to you again."
From the creature in the tunnel came a sensation of happiness, but not one of evil; at least, not one that Ga'briyel recognized, and he wondered what was waiting for him on the other side of that door.
"Little Sainika," the voice said again, this time accompanied by the grating sound of stone against stone. "Wake up, little Sain—" The voice cut off with a gasp, and a young man wearing nothing but smallclothes stepped into the room. "Wha—" The man was unable to make another sound as Ga'briyel's hands went around his throat from behind and cut off his air.
"Not another sound or I will rip your tongue from your head." The snarl that accompanied those words had the man bobbing his head up and down in agreement. "If I let go, will you stay silent?" Again the man nodded frantically, and Ga'briyel slowly loosened his grip. As soon as he could, the man darted to the far side of the tiny cell, and the door slid shut.
"How did you get untied?" the man whispered as his hands went to his throat.
"It was not that hard," Ga'briyel said. "Whoever tied me down did not do a very good job of it."
Then, to Ga'briyel's horror, the man dropped to the floor and started to sob. "Please, Anmah, please do not kill me, sir! It was not my idea! They made me do it! Please do not kill me!"
"Oh, for Yisu's sake, calm down," Ga'briyel said with a huff. "I am not going to hurt you." He hopped up onto the table he had been strapped to and sat on the edge. "What is your name?"
The man peeked up through his arms which he had thrown over his head. "Yandru, sir."
"Well, Yandru, I have some questions for you."
"If I answer them, will you let me go?"
"Probably not, but you will answer them," Ga'briyel said, letting his eyes flare. Yandru shrank back as if he wished he could melt into the stone wall. "First of all, where are we?"
"Underneath the ruins, sir."
"Why can I not feel anything? I cannot feel Daitya or Takosa or Dirack. Why?"
Yandru looked at the walls. "It is the stone, sir. It shields you. I do not know how, but I heard Kolakas say it."
"Hmm. That is not good." Then Ga'briyel looked at the door. "How do you open the door?"
Yandru held up his right arm and showed Ga'briyel the metal band that was on it. "This band triggers it when I am close enough, sir."
"Take it off and give it to me." Eyes wide, Yandru obeyed. "Will it trigger any door or only this one?"
"It will trigger any door the wearer wishes to enter, sir. Again, I do not know how it works, but it does."
"Good." Ga'briyel snapped it onto his wrist and got off the table. He walked to Yandru. "I am truly sorry for what must happen next, but I cannot have you warning anyone." His fist flew from his side and connected solidly with Yandru's jaw. The man dropped to the floor, and Ga'briyel picked him up before securing him to the table much tighter than he himself had been. Then he stepped close to the door, and it slid sideways into the wall. "That is nice," he muttered. He peered into the tunnel carefully. Seeing nothing, he stepped out and took his sword from the peg and strapped it on. When he pulled it from the scabbard, it still glowed white, and he grinned, but it was not a pleasant grin. "Now I will kill you, Kolakas."
He stood in the tunnel and tried to feel something, anything that would tell him where Kolakas was, but there was nothing. The tunnel had doors lining the walls, all with the tiny window, and he glanced into each cell as he passed, but they were empty. His cell had been at almost the end of the tunnel. There were only two doors beyond it, and they had been empty as well. He was far down the tunnel before he finally felt something. Terror so strong he thought he might collapse. It was somewhere in front of him, and he slowly walked forward until he reached a door that looked no different than any other, but he knew the sensation was coming from behind it. He stopped and looked up and down the tunnel before approaching the door. It slid open immediately, and he stepped into the cell, sheathing his blade as he did so.
Sobbing met his ears as he looked around the cell. It was different than the one he had been in. This cell had a table and chair and bed instead of a stone table. It also had an occupant. A man was seated on the bed, his knees pulled to his chest, and it was he who was sobbing. His hair was white, but when Ga'briyel took a step into the cell and the man's head snapped up at the sound of the door closing, Ga'briyel barely kept himself from cursing. This man was Anmah. What was an Anmah doing here? When the man saw him, he scrambled backward until he hit the wall.
"You are Anmah! Who are you?" he gasped.
"My name is Ga'briyel Mistri. Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"I am Debhida. I am here to provide sport for the Takosa and Dirack. Why are you here?"
"Sport? How do you do that?"
The man had relaxed slightly, and he shrugged. "I am set free every night at last light for the hunt, and every night they try to kill me. I cannot die anymore, though. I can only suffer. They will do the same to you. Have you died by the Dirack's fire yet?"
"Yes. And Kolakas killed me last night."
Debhida sighed heavily. "Then you will join me in the hunt, Ga'briyel Mistri."
"No, I will not. And you will not either. We are leaving."
The man laughed, but it was a dismal sound. "We cannot leave. We are stuck here for eternity."
Ga'briyel frowned at the resignation in the man's words. "How long have you been here, Debhida?"
"I do not know. I have lost track of the time."
"Do you know the way to the surface?"
"Yes. I have traveled it so many times it is burned into my mind."
"Good. Then you will show me the way out. I will kill anything that gets in our way."
"How will you do that? No one knows how to kill Dirack, and Takosa are already dead. How can you kill something that is already dead?"
"I know how." Ga'briyel said simply, and then he moved to the door which slid open. "Stay behind me, Debhida. I will protect you the best I can." He stepped out into the tunnel and drew his sword. The man behind him sucked in a harsh breath at the sight of the glowing sword, but he followed. They walked to the end of the tunnel, and when it opened onto a small cavern with five more tunnels leading off it, Ga'briyel asked, "Which way?"
"The second one on the left," Debhida said quietly. They went in that direction, and continued toward the surface until Ga'briyel heard a harsh laugh coming from a tunnel to his right.
"Silence," he hissed and pushed Debhida against the wall. "Stay here!" He recognized that laugh, but as he turned down the tunnel, the other Anmah grabbed his arm.
"No! Please do not leave me here. If they find me out of my cell, they will torture me!"
Ga'briyel sighed. "Fine, but stay out of my way. I am going to kill that Hellspawn and anything that is with it." He stalked down the tunnel, his boots thudding dully on the stone. He did not care if Kolakas heard him or not. The Takosa could not kill him again, and he had no intention of being ambushed again. It did not take long to reach a large cavern where he once again heard the Takosa's laugh ring out, and then the creature spoke.
"He will join the other tonight," Kolakas was saying. "I will drain him enough so that he is weak and cannot fight back. Soon the Sainika will be as pitiful as that other worm, and the world will be Sayatan's."
"I do not think so, Kolakas," Ga'briyel said slowly, stepping into the cavern. "I will kill you and obliterate your soul." Four black Diracks were standing by the back wall of the cavern, but Ga'briyel only grinned, and his eyes blazed brightly. "And then I will kill you four."
Kolakas spun and hissed out his breath. "Impossible! How did you escape, Sainika? Did that fool Yandru help you? I will suck him dry for this!"
"He did not help much. Just with this." Ga'briyel held up his wrist with the metal band. "He may be awake by now, but I doubt it. Even if he is, he is not going anywhere. I tie a much better knot than he did."
The Takosa snarled and leaped at Ga'briyel, but the Anmah was more than ready for it this time. As the creature flew toward him, he ducked and raised his sword so that the tip sliced through the Takosa's belly. The creature howled as it crashed into the wall of the cavern behind Ga'briyel, but he ignored it and turned his attention to the Diracks.
"Are you the four that were in the square last night?" he asked, raising his sword in front of him. None of them answered but all of them instantly opened their mouths and sent their fire toward him. Since they were all in front of him, his sword absorbed all four streams, and he slowly walked forward toward them as the sword glowed a bright red. It started to get hot, but he paid it no mind. When he was standing in front of him, they closed their mouths and grinned.
"Fool of a Sainika," one said, its tongue flicking out through its teeth. "You cannot kill us all. We will fire your flesh and watch you burn."
"I think not," Ga'briyel snarled. He swung the sword four times, and each time severed a Dirack's foot. They shrieked as the skin around the cut blackened, but he continued to strike out until they were all lying on the floor of the cavern, nothing but charred stumps where their feet had been. He stepped up to the one who had taunted him. "Nothing to say, Dirack? Too bad. I would have liked to hear you grovel for your life." His sword was still glowing brightly, but the heat had diminished. He aimed his next strike where he knew the Dirack's orb was and easily severed its head, slicing cleanly through the orb at the same time. Three more strikes followed, and three more heads joined the first. He dropped the point of his sword to the floor and looked around him, breathing heavily with fury.
"Sainika?" Debhida slowly entered the cavern, his eyes wide and blazing. "You are Sainika?"
Ga'briyel whirled and raised his sword. Debhida froze and stared at it. Gritting his teeth painfully, Ga'briyel lowered the sword and walked to the entrance of the cavern. When he reached Kolakas' body, he roared and drove his blade into its torso. As he watched, the red glow leached out of the sword, and Ga'briyel had to jump backward, pulling his sword free as he did so, when the Takosa's body suddenly burst into flames. Then Ga'briyel turned to leave the cavern, but he almost tripped over Debhida who was on his knees, his face to the floor.
"Yisu's beard, man! Stand up!" Ga'briyel pushed down the urge to kick the coward. He stepped around him and walked back to the tunnel he had branched off of earlier. Debhida had scrambled to his feet and followed silently, but Ga'briyel felt the man's awe spilling over him, and he scowled. As they walked, he gradually calmed down, but he could still feel his fury as a ball of flame inside him, and he knew if he did not control it, he would do something he would regret. They walked for what seemed like days, and Ga'briyel was only forced to destroy a few Luten and several Sisuvu. Finally, they came to a stone door with a lever much like the one the Sainika had seen when he killed Ajingara. He pulled the lever, and the door slid to the side as the first had done. When they stepped through into the cold night air, Ga'briyel took a deep breath and started walking. He had no idea in which direction he was moving, but he wanted to be away from that place. He would figure out where they were in the morning.
He had nothing except the clothes he wore and his sword, so when they stopped, he searched the surroundings for flint and marcasite. He found the flint easily enough, but there was nothing to strike it against, so he sat on the ground with his back against a boulder, pulled his knees to his chest, and wrapped his arms around them in an attempt to stay warm.
"Mistri?" Debhida spoke quietly from his left.
"Thank you for rescuing me. I do not know how much longer I would have lasted. I was slowly going insane."
"You are welcome," Ga'briyel answered, and he looked at the other Anmah. "Where are you from?"
"I was captured on the road outside of Basanta. It seems like years ago, but I know it was not. It has probably been only a few moons. Two Takosa grabbed me and dragged me into the woods. Then they drained me and brought me to that place. I woke up in the cell, and the sport started that night. It continued every night. The first night was when I died from the Dirack's fire. Since then, I have burned more times than I can recall."
Ga'briyel shuddered as his memories returned. "Where is Basanta? I have never heard of it."
"It is north of here on the eastern edge of the mountains. I do not know where we are right now, but Basanta is about two hundred leagues from Torkeln."
"You are far from home," Ga'briyel said, dropping his chin onto his knees. "So am I."
"Where is your home, Sainika?"
"Do not call me that."
"Why not? Is that not what you are?"
"I have a name, Debhida!" Ga'briyel's head came up, and his eyes flared with anger. "It is Captain Ga'briyel Mistri el'Adama el'Altyara el’Illyama! I am not just a tool used by Yisu to defeat evil!" He fought back a sob, but it escaped him anyway, and he buried his head in his arms. "I have a name!" He let the tears come as he curled into himself tightly.
"I am sorry, Ga'briyel," Debhida said, softly laying his hand on the other's arm. "I did not mean anything by it."
Ga'briyel shrugged him off. "Just leave me alone."
Instead, Debhida sat next to him. "Where would I go?" he asked quietly.
"When we get back to Mirstone, you can go home," Ga'briyel answered. "I cannot. I have to fight, Debhida. For Yisu knows how long, I have to fight and die and hurt and kill." He laid down on the ground and sighed. "I need to sleep, Debhida. I have not had a full night's sleep in at least four days."
"I will let you sleep then, Ga'briyel Mistri. Hopefully we are far enough away from that place that nothing will find us."
"I truly hope so, Debhida."